UK Without A Map is David's story, and as much as John is a part of that we don't get to see most of his side of things. Due to the constraints of the fic's David POV, there's a lot of things that I couldn't explicitly put into the fic. I tried to fit them in with implication and subtle hints where appropriate, but it's a whole AU by the end. So I thought a bit of commentary might be appreciated. I'm not going to do line by line, just skip to the important bits throughout the series.
Kiss Me Quick
The title comes from the Blackpool hats: kiss me quick, squeeze me slowly. All of the titles are geographically specific, tying in to the sense of travel, progression, change.
Obviously this story started out because of John Simm's "cage dancing in bicycle shorts because I was young and needed the money" confession. Which is very nice inspiration.
The obvious conclusion was to pair him off with David, who at the time is just starting acting school, still very naive about the world, an utter contrast to John's corruption. And John is corrupted; when he was younger, someone did what he does to David, except it wasn't sweet and wonderful.
They're both very much teenagers in mentality in this chapter of the story. Young, sex-driven, different levels of experience, think they know everything except they don't know anything. Trying too hard to be adults and then flipping back to being kids, and then back again. Putting themselves in stupidly risky situations, you know. Typical teenage boys.
There's quite a lot of older men about, and he catches a few looking at him.
Before he can even process it, John has slipped a tablet in his mouth and told him to swallow.
John does what's been done to him: finds a sweet young thing and seduces him. He's done it before several times, and to him David is beyond easy. A few drinks, a little show, and John's got a new toy to despoil. He gives him E, drugging him because he doesn't care about little things like informed consent.
The anorak had to be dragged to a gay bar, Sean had teased, though more out of drunken affection than anything nasty.
That's why he's staying, because it's certainly not the fact that he feels all fluttery inside every time he glances at the dancers in the cage, and every time someone walks too close or looks at him for too long.
David, up to this point in his life, has been in a sort of half-assed denial about his sexuality. He hasn't told anyone and mostly tried to avoid thinking about it, except that he can't so he ends up furtively sneaking magazines and watching the men in het porn videos. He's tried messing about with girls but it's never gotten really serious, because it's mostly that he's hoping at some point his attraction will magically switch over. So what John does is break through that denial and force David to accept that he's attracted to men, that he's the full-on Whovian stereotype.
Even though it wasn't obvious until later in the story, David is in fact pretty Kinsey 6 at the outset. Not out of any issues with bisexuality, but because narratively it worked better. It makes his sexuality as impossible to ignore as his DW fannishness.
"Or a new body," David says, thinking of the Fifth Doctor and his allergy.
David's sexuality and his love of Who are repeatedly paralleled. He half-assedly hides his DW love at the start, but he's too obvious about it not to admit it outright to his friends and the result is their teasing of him. Which is why he adamantly refuses to let John know anything about it, because he suffers from the same thing many fans do, which is fear of being discovered and having his passions mocked, being rejected for them. Especially because he's so young and not really comfortable with himself.
He's not very good at sensible, though. It's something he's still working on. He just gets so passionate about things so easily, he can't seem to be normal like everyone else.
Even though David Tennant is clearly comfortable with himself by our modern time, reading his earlier interviews and picking up on general patterns, you can see a conflict between his natural self-honesty, his general optimism, and his anxieties. He is, as becomes even stronger in O Ffwrnais Awen, a worrier. This comes directly from Arabella Weir's description of him, as well as some of those early interviews. David's tendency to worry is also something that stays with him and becomes a major factor in his life by the end of the story.
Finally, this weekend is a key formative experience for both of them, and the consequences of it ripple down and actively change who they are over the twenty years of the story. Which is why it ended up an explicitly AU fic, instead of something that could be more easily squeezed into the gaps like Method Acting.
Mind The Gap
The slogan of the London Underground, obviously. And of course a sign that there's danger in the distance between them.
Whenever he frets about his future, Arabella reminds him that he's young yet.
At this point, David is still pretty much the same as we know him. By 26, he's accepted his sexuality and his Doctor Who love as things that are a permanent part of him. Ironically, as he's become more at ease, as the world has accepted gayness more, his DW love has become something to sneer at.
He's obsessing. That's not helping.
David's obsessive tendencies are also at the fore here. Someone who's a fan at three is a fan for life, and when he believes he'll never have John again, he falls back on fannishness as an outlet for all the feelings seeing him again stirs up. Which becomes something of a problem for him in this story as well as down the line.
The BBC tried to bring back Doctor Who and the Americans messed with it and then made it a punchline all over again, but that didn't stop him from rewatching that tape too many times and going back to his library of videos and books.
It's a small detail, but the McGann movie is a foreshadowing of disaster. Just like all the elements were there in the TVM but it didn't click, so the same ends up being with David/John.
He did have one last growth spurt when he was seventeen, but all it did was stretch him like taffy.
David doesn't have much of an opinion of his physical appearance. That gets better when he's older, but even now he's extremely modest about himself and clearly doesn't consider himself any kind of classically handsome. When he's younger that feeling is stronger, and it's one of a set of reasons he gives himself for why he's never found the right person. It also is part of the imbalance he feels in his meetings with John, because John chooses him and then chooses to leave, and all David does is have his heart broken. That has a major impact for their third reunion.
"Just sick of the celebrity crowd. It's not all it's cracked up to be."
John wanted to be a rock star, wanted to be rich and famous. His goals were always high, and in an interview he actually said that when he was 25 he expected to become a Hollywood star. By 30, he'd become completely disenchanted with celebrity, and not afraid to rant all over an interviewer to tell him so. Right now, he's in the middle stage: still wanting that fame, but already hating all the trappings.
John has also become more enmeshed in clubbing and drug culture. There's a hell of a lot that happens to him between here and Cardiff, and I'll go into that later.
"I found someone," John says, simply. "Spent five years with them. First two were great, next year was good, last was crap. Then I was off filming for so long it just ended."
John's sexuality is left fairly undefined, because we only see it in relation to David. He's bi, and does that divide where sex with women is Good and sex with men is Dirty, at least when he's young. By Mind The Gap, he's been a hard partier, and definitely beyond those divides to simple hedonism and pulling every pretty bird he can get his hands on, on top of his long-term someone. A few guys, too, but those would be more furtive, because he's not comfortable with that side of himself, he still thinks it's something he can just toss aside when he wants to, and there's still that part of him that thinks of David every time.
"Do you want me to go?" John asks, quietly.
"You've ruined me, you know," he says. "Utterly ruined me. Ever since that weekend."
John feels just a bit guilty already, even before the sex starts, because he knows he's only here because he's using David. John wants to relive Blackpool because he's dissatisfied with how his life is turning out. David makes him feel special, the way he looks at him, the simple goodness of him. David is the opposite of the people John spends his life surrounded by, genuine instead of fake.
"Still a tart, I see," John says, smirking. "You have no idea how glad that makes me."
However, as long as David is still an eager boy, John is more than happy to take advantage of him. He avoids any real conversation because that's not something he's prepared to deal with or interested in. He's not here to talk, he's here to fuck, and that's where it all goes wrong.
"No point in making someone wait when you're gone most of the year. Actor's life, yeah?"
John is only a few months off a bad breakup. He's bitter about it, especially how his fame from The Lakes came into it. A few careless words and he's planted a seed in David's thoughts, because David looks up to John as someone experienced, wise about the world. David thinks John has found all sorts of success, that he's confident and handsome and he's just a bit jealous of all that. And again we see the power imbalance in John's favor.
"You weren't just a shag," John says.
"I was in love with you," he says, the words suddenly slipping out of him before he even has the chance to wince at them. Feels like an idiot, confessing that.
Neither of them have been able to forget the other, have in fact been haunted by regret over not trying to stay in touch after that weekend. They both want more than they're willing to face at this stage, because like the BBC and FOX, the match is wrong. David's been letting his obsessiveness be a replacement for his deeper feelings, and John is in an even worse state.
David says nothing because he can't, but he can't ask him to stay either, not when he's going to end up with his heart broken all over again. He's such a coward.
And here's where it all goes wrong, because David finally does face his deeper feelings for John, and it tears him up inside that his love has been reduced to being used for sex, that that's all John wants from him. And John sees his withdrawal and it angers him, because even if he talks a good game about hating celebrity he does feel entitled to fuck David because of his power/fame. So he does what worked in Blackpool and gives the genuine, heartbroken David drugs, so he can fuck him without feeling guilty.
John sits down beside him. "It helps," he says, still offering it. "I hate to see you like this."
"And that's the answer?"
"Sometimes, yeah," John says.
Of course, it doesn't work that way. All it does is make John incredibly guilty, because the moment he makes David take the E, he loses him all over again. And it's not sweet, it's not wonderful, it's John finally achieving what he intended to do in Blackpool which is drag David down to his level. And he hates it.
"My David," he murmurs. "Lovely David." He sounds almost sad.
John is sad, enough that it leaks through his confident front. He feels like shit for what he's done, and once David drops off he takes the opportunity to run from his mistakes. This is not John's finest hour, and it's going to haunt him so much it changes everything for him.
He has a headache, and it feels like something's shattered in his chest.
David believes that John left because he got what he wanted and had no further use for David. He believes that all he ever was to him was a convenient fuck.
Commentary for the UK Without A Map series.
">O Ffwrnais Awen
'O ffwrnais awen' is from the inscription on the Wales Millennium Centre, and this section of it means 'from inspiration's furnace.' It seemed very appropriate to the intensity of the fic and the situation the characters are in, and to the idea of good things coming out of that intensity.
It was harder to find a good Welsh phrase to use for this story because I don't read Welsh. *g* Also, everything seemed to be about the English or the language. Fortunately, there was the WMC, which I really should have turned to from the outset instead of looking for slogans that ended up being things like "Europe's Youngest Capital." I mean, lame.
David's main conflict is passion versus being "sensible" and "normal." He gives up on being normal by the time he's a working actor in London, but still tries to be sensible about things. He took a week to say yes to the Doctor role because he was trying to be sensible.
Which is a better track record than David's personal life, speaking of.
We don't find out about all the details of the Ben debacle until later on in the story, but the basic gist of it is that David was out when he accepted Russell's offer of the Doctor, and the press went nuts over a gay Doctor on what should be a "family show." It would have been worse except that JB took the brunt of that talk and made it a non-issue for there to be a gay companion. Except that a companion is one thing, and the Doctor quite another.
There was a long lag between David being announced and filming actually starting. The worst of it happened here, when the press was wild with speculation and rumour. That's when David got the death threats, and he started to be overwhelmed by the press attention. In our universe, David was able to deal with the press by being himself, down to earth and calm. The problem here is that the press was actually attacking him, not just doing the usual "will the new Doctor be any good?" nonsense.
"Because everyone on this production is a horrendous gossip," David replies.
When filming started, instead of hooking up with Sophia Myles, David ended up with her analogue, Ben Turner, the actor who played King Louis in GITF. Ben doesn't have much by way of credits in the IMDb, and when he hooked up with David he promised to be there for him as he dealt with the press when the episodes aired. Except that somewhere along the line the tabloids got wind of their relationship, and Ben got a taste of the spotlight himself and hated it. The upshot was that Ben moved to the States because he didn't want to deal with being Doctor Who's boyfriend, claimed it was ruining his career and his life, and it was all David's fault for not being able to keep things a secret. Which was harsh and undeserved, but it was a bad breakup.
The final nail in the relationship was when Ben had found work overseas and asked David to move to LA with him. He said that it was obvious that David was miserable because of the tabloids and they'd be happier out there. But David went to LA for LA Without A Map, and he hated all that shallow nonsense, and that was the end of it.
It's no more than six months since the breakup when John comes back into his life, and so even after David and John work past the initial issues, David has all sorts of leftover angst from Ben.
Every ten years, John Simm will pop by, seduce him, and then disappear from his life leaving him to pick up the pieces.
It's been long enough since Mind The Gap that David's broken heart has recovered, and his feelings for John are in the half-assed denial mode. The broken heart didn't stop him from continuing to track John's career and buy his DVDs to watch the same way he watches DW DVDs. And hey, after a bad breakup, who doesn't want a hot sort-of-ex to shag? At least the sex is fantastic, right?
The actor's life. John was right about that.
And there's that seed John planted, taken root. David has come to believe that things will never quite work out, that there's always something that will get in the way. This is largely because of John and Ben. Even though he's an optimistic person, John's repeatedly breaking his heart and then his later troubles with the tabloids make his worrying get out of hand. He's been burnt too badly too many times to be quite as indefatigable as he is in our universe.
"I was wondering when you were going to drag yourself over," Barrowman says. "Just do me a favour and don't pace."
JB has become a sort of best friend/relationship mentor for him. JB is very protective of David because of David's rough ride with the tabloids and because he knows how badly things ended with Ben. David looks up to him the way he once looked up to John, because JB really does have it all figured out, with a successful career and Scott. They're also both crazy workaholics, and that's one of the reasons they get along so well.
"Trust me on this, okay? You wanted my advice, that's my advice."
JB can tell that David has some pretty serious feelings for John, because he's seen him fall for Ben and because how David describes his feelings is very much how JB felt about Scott when they first got together. He's also tired and wants his nap, and shoos him out because David has a tendency to witter on if given the chance.
"I saw," John says, with some sympathy. "Bunch of parasites."
This is important because despite what David thinks, John didn't come to Cardiff just for a fuck. He's been watching David's life in the public eye the way David's been watching John's.
And now I should explain what John's been up to all this time.
After Mind The Gap, John decided it was time to pull his shit together. He quit the club scene, quit his band, went to rehab, probably had at least one relapse. He did the twelve steps. This is just a more extreme version of what the actual John went through, because again Blackpool made the divergence.
John has also come to terms with his sexuality, and probably had at least one long-term male lover, though that's over for at least a year before Cardiff.
David is right that John hates publicity and the tabloids. In fact, when John was considering whether to take the Master job, and pursue David for real, that was a serious problem for him. But he decided that David meant enough to him that he would put up with the tabloids for a shot at being with him.
Of all possible roles, that's the absolute worst one, because David does not need his sexual fantasies to converge right now and that's what's about to happen.
David wanted to be the Doctor since he was 3. When David finally gets the role, he breathes the Doctor, he identifies with him so deeply. So when John becomes the Master, the two become deeply entangled in his head. It doesn't help that the script is emotionally intense for the Doctor and thus for him, and it doesn't help that there's a very strong parallel of the Master coming in and out of the Doctor's life the way John comes in and out of David's life. All of this contributes to his emotional distress.
"Admitting you're powerless is the first step," John says. "Apologizing is the ninth."
John's first confession. One of the main things he drew on to clean himself up was the memory of David. He feels that he's wronged him, hurt him, used him, and he doesn't want to be that kind of person anymore. John came back to apologize as much as to see if David still wanted to make things work. And of course David leapt on him the moment he got back, so...
"I'll hold a fucking press conference if it helps," John says, but without heat. "David, I mean this. Life's too short. I should have never let you leave Blackpool. I should have tried to transfer to Glasgow."
John's regret. He realized much later that what he had with David was something special, and instead of trying to use that as he did in Mind The Gap, he's showing that he genuinely wants to make it work. He's willing to make sacrifices. That's important, because up until now he's only been taking, not giving.
John is a classic reformed cad. Real!John isn't far off, gone from mouthy bad boy to a much calmer husband and father. In our universe, it was probably having kids that tempered John more than growing out of the party phase, but again this isn't quite the same universe, and John's personal life hasn't taken the same trajectory even though his career has been the same.
"Wait until you're both ready," Barrowman advises. "Only tell people you can trust to keep it quiet. They're probably not going to want anything to reach the public until after series airs."
JB trying to help David avoid another mess like he had with Ben.
Not the boy who danced in a Blackpool bar and not the young man lost in fame and drugs, but the man. The man who came back for him.
And just like that, he falls in love with John all over again. As if he'd ever stopped being in love with him.
That's when David realizes that John really has changed. The little speech in the trailer was one thing, but David's shaking off twenty years of expectations. He's also realizing that the power balance of the relationship isn't so one-sided anymore, that John is waiting on him for a change and not trying to seduce him. David did most of the work himself while John was away, getting himself into a state over John and being the one who dragged him in for sex this time around.
But John's Master is on a different page entirely. Breathy and low, seductive, intimate. Taking the subtext Russell wrote in and playing completely into it.
Ironically, John's old habit of seduction is one of the things that hooked David on him, and that make him such a match for playing the Master. He plays the Master as a seducer, with that phone sex voice and the way he draws the Doctor in, the way he drew David in. And John's Master = Blackpool John, for David. It's the old John he's still seeing there, even as he's learning the new, mature John.
David snorts. "You don't waste any time." Buckles himself in and starts the car.
David is feeling pressured, even if he's not admitting it to himself. He feels like John has just steamrollered into his life the way he always does, and resents that.
"Something wrong?" David asks, as he puts away the marmalade.
"I think I should be asking you that," John says, and turns to face him. Worried, a little afraid maybe. David's learned to read him more from telly than real life.
John realizes this before David does, because he's very aware of how he's done that in the past and is actively trying to avoid doing it again.
"I should probably worry if you start bringing me flowers."
David giving voice to his resentment. Subtly implying that John is still only here for sex, which leads directly to John's second confession.
"I wanted you to give me that again. That sweetness. And I fucking ruined it."
John realizes, once he sees the doubts David has, that he needs to make some kind of gesture or this isn't going to work. He's going to lose David all over again. So he forces himself to spit out what David's meant to him over the years, how much he's affected him. He shows that he's not here just to use him, that David was never just a shag, that to him David was wonderful right from the start.
"I love you, too," David whispers.
And it works. David is shocked, but realizes that John is genuine and shows his acceptance. He also forgives him for using him, by saying that he loves him after John has confessed. He's saying that he wants to make this work, too.
It was a delicate scene because it was about David not seeing John (exhaustion, expectations) and John needing to get through to him. And it's meant to be a bit of a shock to the reader because the reader is in David's head, seeing through his eyes. I know some people felt it wasn't built up enough but it couldn't be built up. If the story had been John's POV, it would have been a completely different scene, one about how John feels David slipping away from him, a distance he only felt at the end of Mind The Gap, and how desperate he is to overcome that distance. But all we see is what David sees, and so it's a sudden revelation.
David laughs again, amused, and kisses John. "You're sweet, too."
So by this point, David and John are making things work. And it's rather wonderful. It's a happy little bubble, and the only downside is that the only one who knows is JB. They have this whole subterfuge going on that partly adds spice and partly is about to bite David in the arse.
"If the Master dies, I'll lose him. He'll go off to film some series and I won't see him for ten years."
And here's when it bites. Because they've been keeping things a secret, David has no reason to believe that John wants this to go long-term. It's Blackpool all over again, with John being a secret he can't tell, something the world thinks he should be ashamed of. It's Ben all over again, with promises to stay and then John being miserable and leaving him because of David's decisions to be out of the closet and take the role of the Doctor.
If John notices that his kisses are more desperate, that he holds him more tightly, he doesn't say anything.
David doesn't want to go through that horrible tabloid-fuelled breakup again, so he starts deciding to end things when filming ends so that John can leave before the worst happens.
John does noticed that David is pulling away a bit, but he doesn't know why. He does assume it's stress from filming, because David is overall acting like everything's fine. Acting being the key word, of course.
"Bring me news of the outside world," David says, an old joke of theirs. He really does sometimes feel like he's institutionalized by this job, trapped in an increasingly tense bubble as filming draws to a hectic close.
David really is under a lot of strain by this point. He would have been exhausted anyway, but all the John angst is bringing up all the Ben angst and the trapped feeling he gets at the end is exacerbated by the threat of discovery, of the tabloids, which all reinforces his decision to end things with John. He's basically decided that no one could deal with being in the spotlight with him, because he's not dealing well with it at all himself.
One thing we don't see yet that is a major factor in David not dealing with the spotlight is that some asshole has sent his mother letters about how it's her fault that her son is a horrible homosexual corrupting innocent children, etc etc. And as we know, David's mother is dying by this point in the timeline.
I did feel a bit uncomfortable about mentioning her, but on the other hand in this AU, that's an important part of David's stress. He's losing one of the most important people in his life, and he feels absolutely horrible that she should suffer at all because of his life choices. He was gutted when he found out about the letters, and that's what leads him to call Billie.
"Oh, David. He's not out, is he?" She groans. "I'm sorry. After what happened with Ben--"
Billie has also been one of his rocks. They were best friends in RL, and there are here in this AU. Again, he feels like she's found what he's still searching for, like with JB. She's in theatre, where he felt the most at ease. She was also there for him during all of the Ben mess, start to finish. Finish was him spending a weekend getting completely drunk with her at her flat.
He turns to her also because he feels like he can't talk to JB about John. JB thinks everything can be cleared up if people just talk it out, but Billie has been burned by the press herself and is more likely to be sympathetic than lecture him. She's more of a pal than a mentor.
"You're going to die on Thursday," David says. "Break the Doctor's hearts."
John chuckles softly. "It's funny when you say it like that. It's not real."
Ouch. John has done what many people do to fans, which is (accidentally) mock the whole fannish experience by saying "it's not real, why are you so obsessed about it?" David takes the Doctor very seriously, whereas for John the Master is just a role. And John knows about David's DW fixation from interviews, but David's never really talked to him about how deeply it's a part of who he is. And on some level, David still feels a bit like a freak. Even if he's accepted that he's not "normal," even if he's surrounded by like-minded people every day, even if it's led him to his dream job, John doesn't understand and that hurts. Ben didn't understand either.
John drives them home, not bothering with their usual subterfuge this time. David would insist except that he's too tired and sore to worry about people seeing them go into his flat together. In a few days it won't matter anyway.
The subterfuge has really been weighing on David. He likes to be honest and up-front about his life, which is how the tabloids found out about Ben, because he wasn't trying to hide them. And now he's doing this to protect John, but it makes him feel like he's doing something he should be ashamed of, makes him feel that John is ashamed of what they have, and basically makes him miserable. And again, as long as they're hiding, David can't believe John wants it to last.
Two takes, three, four. Every time it's like his heart is being scoured with grief.
It all comes together: the Doctor's grief over the Master and David's grief over John. It's all tangled up so deeply they're almost one and the same. It's the flip side to David's fantasising about John and the Master earlier in the story.
He held himself together between sobbing over the Master's body one last time and reaching this quiet corner, but when John comes in and wordlessly holds him, he falls to pieces.
I don't normally have characters crying, but I needed to show just how much of a mess David is by this point. And he's spent all that time sobbing for the camera, so he's already primed for it. And god, that was a hell of a performance, especially what we see in the Confidential for the ep. Heartbreaking. So double that sorrow, and that's David.
It's a mini-nervous breakdown, really, and a parallel to his erotic nervous breakdown earlier that lead to him attacking John in the trailer. And again he attacks John, but this time by pouring out his grief instead of his lust.
"Are you actually prepared for this?" David says, his voice raising. "Because I wasn't. I got death threats. Death threats. Are you ready for that? Are you ready for your dying mother to get hate mail about her gay son?"
David finally spills about how bad it's been. He's enough of an optimist that he tries to minimize how negatively things have affected him, but eventually it's too much to hide, even from himself.
"No one can handle it," David says. "I can't handle it."
He can't. He can't handle hiding his relationship with John, can't handle the tabloids, can't handle the hate mail or his mother's illness or the Master's death or the intense end of filming, and all of it at once is just too damn much.
"I love you," John tells him again. "And I did actually know what I was getting into."
Except John isn't Ben, and he isn't younger!John, the one who seduces him and breaks his heart. John came to Cardiff knowing what he was getting into, he came knowing that being with David meant dealing with all of the publicity crap, and he doesn't care. None of it matters, because David is that important to him.
Finally, finally that gets through to David. And again, it's David's POV, so it is something of a shock to the reader, because it's a shock to David.
They walk there, John's arm around his back and David's eyes red, and he can feel everyone's eyes on them, curious, watching. But John doesn't take away his arm, doesn't try to hide or hurry them along.
Once again John makes a clear gesture to show how serious he is. He holds David as they walk through the set to his trailer. It's not so blatant that it'll cause trouble, but it's enough that people will realize that there's something going on between John and David. It's John coming out of the closet, which is pretty damn brave of him. Even braver than his confessions.
"But you were right. The episode does need more of them together. We've got a quick pickup on the Valiant and then a location shoot."
And here we see another good thing that comes out of David's outbursts. David gets a real scene with the Master, one that draws on exactly what he said to Russell: that the Master always has an escape plan, that the Doctor knows him so well, that the Doctor always wins and the Master knows it. It really was a last-minute addition, and it fits very well here.
"Is this your idea of a proposal?" David asks, feeling rather giddy. "In back of a van on a blasted heath?"
When I was writing this, I didn't intend for it to end up a marriage fic. I was as surprised as the characters when they blurted it out. It's not very traditional, just sort of happens, but in retrospect there was a lot of foreshadowing. JB and Scott, and Billie and Chris/Laurence; David wants someone who will stick like no one else has, he wants what JB and Billie have. He wants to be with John for the rest of his life.
John didn't quite intend to propose when he said 'for better or for worse.' He did, however, intend the meaning behind it, which is that he genuinely wanted to stay with David, not just 'date' or something. And then David accidentally forces the issue by picking up on the subtext, and that turns it into a proposal.
Also, I think it's a rather lovely moment.
Oh yes, he's definitely drunk.
From the cold of the Cardiff hill we go to the hot muggy August at the Ivy. David being drunk is as much about the actual night at the Ivy as a sign that David is relaxed now, no longer a tightly wound ball of stress.
"Hello," he waves at the photographers. "Yes, it's us. Nice to see you, too."
They've been out as a couple for a while now, long enough that he's getting used to the paparazzi. Also: drunk. *g*
David suspects it would have been worse if his mother hadn't died right in the middle of it. It was like a bucket of cold water over the tabloid flames.
News broke after LOTTL aired (June 30th), though rumours had been building for a while. David's mother died July 15th, in the middle of filming for VOTD. The Ivy was August 25th.
John and David got married after VOTD filming, just a small ceremony with close friends and family. David is rather old-fashioned, and John rather likes that about him. So they did the deed. The wedding was also a way for David to move on after the funeral.
It's the least he can do for John.
John has become another of David's rocks, and maybe the steadiest of all. John's stayed by his side through one of the hardest parts of David's life and he's really grateful for that. That wiped away all his worries about John.
Manip: Read All About It by
I wrote the end scene of the story around this image, because it symbolised David and John's acceptance of their public life together. It also shows that ultimately Britain in 2007 is more accepting than not, which is important for characters who have grown up during times when it was much harder to be out and successful, if not impossible. Consider that Ian McKellen came out in 1988 because of Section 28, to much concern about his career and his partner's career. (Hello, my LOTR fandom past.) Section 28, which Wikipedia says prohibited local authorities from "promoting homosexuality" 'as a kind of pretended family relationship', did pass and was on the books until 2003.
This was a very intense story for me to write, emotionally, much more than anything else I've done, because it was so much more of a personal story than the fantasy of DW. The themes of never getting over your first love, of how there are parts of yourself you have to grow to accept, how life changes you but some things remain a constant. Sexuality, friendship, success, mortality. How people aren't always in the right place at the right time and things don't always work out. And that ultimately, very hopefully, there is someone out there who will stick.
It was also, in a loose way, a parallel to the actual LA Without A Map film, complete with the central character never quite knowing what his love is thinking, best friends helping him out, fumbling through the world, the way they weave in and out of each other's lives, a stress-induced climax, and that ultimately success and love come together at the end. Romantic comedy/drama/coming of age/gay porn!
So there we have it! I hope this illuminated some of the important themes and details of the story, and fleshed out what couldn't be shown due to the constraints of the POV and setting. Thanks for reading.
P.S. If there's anything else that you'd like illuminated, feel free to ask in the comments.